Monday, April 4, 2016

You call yourself a legitimate news organization! Shame on you!

A few lifetimes ago I was a PhD candidate in sociology. I didn't finish up because I didn't want to teach. Professors complain that if they don't publish they will perish, but I would rather publish than teach and that wasn't going to happen.  If I would've finished up I probably would've had a career in creating implementing and analyzing surveys. That's what sociologist do. It's been 30 years, but I still understand the importance of getting an adequately large random sample.

I remember how much effort we had to put in to get a random sample of likely voters. How we had to work so hard to get all different types of people to answer the phone. Not just people who were home when we happen to call. We had to call at all different times of the day. We also had to figure out how many people were likely to answer the phone in the morning as opposed to the evening so that we would call to get a little bit of everybody. We couldn't be satisfied with people who just happened answer the phone at 7 PM

Now I spend a great part of my day participating in consumer surveys to make a few dollars. I go to websites like mintvine and Inboxdollars a couple of times the day and give my opinion for cash. (Please click those links and join our get a commission.) My goal when I go to these websites is to click through on his many offers as I can with the possibility of getting paid $.25 or even a dollar or giving my opinion. Once I get through to the survey I honestly zip through the questions as quickly as I can so I can get credit. I've learned how to figure out how to answer the screening questions so I get through to a survey. I'll tell them I have a cat when I don't even have any pets and then I'll answer questions about cat food. The data that they collect for me is junk; I don't buy cat food, I don't eat at fast food restaurants, I don't drink soda, I don't go on luxury cruises and I certainly don't vote Republican. But I know how to get through the screening questions so I can get paid a few cents to fill out the survey. There are even websites and Facebook pages advising people how to qualify for surveys.

One of the survey companies I visit on a regular basis is called YouGov. YouGov is just like the other survey for pay companies. They send me emails and ask me if I want to participate in a poll in order to receive points that can eventually turn into cash. In their case each point is worth a 10th of a cent and each survey is worth about 500 points. So I get about $.50 a survey, which is kind of the same as the other companies. I fill out the surveys with exactly the same interest as I do when they asked me my opinion about a movie trailer. I do it as quick as possible so I can move on with my life. I'm not really reading the questions, I'm just getting them to make sure I don't ask any disqualifying questions incorrectly. Sometimes a multiple-choice question is "click answer B to make sure you're paying attention". If I don't click answer B the survey quickly goes away and I'm disqualified.

So, you know that expression "garbage in garbage out"? That originated with people who created surveys. If you collect meaningless data your results are meaningless. If you collect data from people were willing to sit at their computer and poke away to get paid $.25 your results are garbage. You can't predict whether one person will be get elected president based on the opinion of people who were trying to get through surveys as quickly as possible.  I happen to be a very likely voter, but if I wasn't even registered I would say I was a likely voter just to get through to the survey.

I am horrified see that real news organizations are using yougov surveys.They are not random, according to their own website they are based on people who subscribe to their service.

"Finally, respondents in New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin were contacted March 29-April 1, 2016. Respondents were selected from YouGovs and two other online panels. These are “opt-in” panels which are open for anyone to join."
I was one of those respondents that opted-in to the panel. I know my answers meant nothing. I was one of the nonrandom people willing to opt-in. This kind of survey might be fine if a company is trying to find out which celebrity is better to endorse something, or what color background works better on some promotional email. But shame on you news organizations for using this kind of data. You can't use this to tell me who is going to get elected president. This you YouGov Poll is not in any way a random sample. Not a sample of people likely to vote, it's a sample of people that have signed up to take surveys to get paid. When news organizations like CBS or the New York Times use this as news they lose their credibility.

Being in a position to receive and reply to an email like the one below is not a random thing.

YouGov What the world thinks

Hi Michael, 

You have been selected to share your opinions in a new YouGov survey. 

We know your time is valuable. As a way of showing our thanks, you'll be awarded points when you complete every survey we email you. The longer the survey, the more points you earn. 

If you cannot view or click on the button above, please copy and paste this address into your browser: 

Thank you for being an active member of the YouGov community!

Kelly Connor

1 comment:

  1. Very good information. Sadly 99.9 percent of all information posted on the Internet and on social media is bogus crap, and people will believe it. We live today in a world of make believe to the extent that we are actually becoming our make believe world! Real media, and real surveys as well as real data are actually disbelieved. I hope you can be a part of changing this!


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